The Facebook Generation

If there is one thing I can say unifies our generation, we are the busy generation. Everyone I talk to feels overwhelmed by everything they have to do. Work is hardly ever a 40 hour a week affair anymore, rather, it’s 50 or 60 to make ends meet for most people, college educated or not. In the age of mobile email, the cell phone, and boss-as-friend text messaging our work doesn’t sit on our desk waiting to be done. It follows us as we try to free ourselves from the office. All of this work crowds out the time and mental space we used to dedicate to other things. Our social lives are the first victim.

While the bars in NY are certainly not hurting for denizens, the kind of middle grade socialization friends used to pay each other has largely disappeared. A phone call at the office to say hello, taking the time to write a few letters (people used to make time to do their correspondance), we’ve supplanted all of that in the digital age. First it was Friendster (yes it still exists), then Myspace (a strong contender), but the 800lbs gorilla is Facebook.

 What started as a simple little place to write on your friend’s wall, post a few pictures from a dorm party, and gossip about your worst professor, has turned into a place for friends old and new, families, and colleagues to keep tabs on each other and supplant actual social interaction with text, emoticons and virtual bumper stickers. We’ve replaced keeping in touch socially with a tight-knit group of friends for have a vague connection to a few hundred on facebook. I haven’t seen Charlie in three years, but facebook just told me he’s off to the do the laundry.

To be sure there are lots of uses for these social networks, I recently added my high school and graduation year to my profile. It opened a flood of nostalgia as I encountered dozens of people who I haven’t spoken to or likely seen face to face in almost 10 years. Most of them are now my facebook friend, and I will probably still not speak to them or see them in person any time soon, but I will hold this tether, this virtual bond. The girl that sat next to me in homeroom is now a pediatric resident at a hospital in NYC. Facebook tells me she needs a vacation.

Then it dawns on me, I haven’t spoken to my sister in a week, my mother in two. I can’t blame Facebook, but I wonder, what does it say about us that I know more about the daily life of someone who posts hourly on Facebook, than my mom?



2 Responses

  1. Good point… which is why I recruited my dad to get onto Facebook. 🙂

    Though there’s definitely a downside to the extreme digitalization of correspondence these days, there’s truly something amazing in our new (cyber) ability to rebuild and rekindle relationships. Thanks to Facebook’s functionality, I have a closeness to my younger brother that mimics what we shared growing up, even though we’re now thousands of miles away. I can now respond to my best friend from high school’s daily ups and downs just like I did when we were teens talking on the phone into the wee hours of the morning. I have forged deeper friendships with colleagues, something I probably never would have been able to do had we not corresponded outside the realm of “9 to 5.” Social media has made my life richer, both personally and professionally.

    Of course, when “friending” and “following” gets in the way of real-life stuff, we definitely need to take a step back. In the meantime, I’m happy to be able to log on and be “social” when I otherwise wouldn’t have picked up the phone. Sadly, life can get in the way of maintaining relationships… it’s intriguing to me how Facebook, Twitter, etc. gives us a string to hold onto to prevent us from losing touch with those who matter.

  2. I think it’s the comfort factor.

    Right or wrong, we always expect our parents to be there, so it’s not as if we have to update them on every part of our lives. But this “online family” needs constant love and mothering for it to work – hence our “addiction” to them.

    Although Facebook is nothing compared to Twitter… 😉

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